Here and There in the Fresh Sea Air

After Christmas excesses it is good to walk and with our lovely coast there is variety and interest always.  A walk round La Hougue is always a pleasure although I see that with the passing of years – we have been here for nearly twelve years – the most seaward stretches of that circuitous wall are narrow.  Time’s coming when I think it will be sensible to go with a companion.  I love going to Pointe de Saire because this is a honey-pot for shell collectors and it is rare that I do not find a wentletrap or two when I rake over the shell-rich deposits which get left in drifts against sand waves and banks.  The point is a place of high energy; the rise and fall of the tides, together with the rip currents which run round that headland and through the channel between raised areas of granite outcrop are continually lifting and redepositing the shelly sands and gravels.  Bedforms are reconfigured and new shapes are created and strandlines are recast in diverse patterns.  Garlands of shells lie in the narrow and shallow runnels between sand waves and ripples.  The sea is the ultimate sorter, it is a subtle process.

Just before New Year we shared a delightful interlude with Tanou and Jean-Pierre.    They are great gamers, of the Scrabble, Barbu and other card games ilk.  We were invited to late afternoon tea with goodies that they had bought at one of the excellent Christmas Markets that take place in Alsace.  In recent years similar events have started to take place in the UK.  The Natural History Museum hosts such a seasonal market and an ice rink is installed alongside and the sight of skaters as I hasten to catch an Underground train after an afternoon meeting of the Conchological Society is one of those key moments with which I associate the impending festival.  Walking home from their home, ‘La Bouillote’ :D, we pass a house whose front garden features small trees which have been garlanded with baubles and an engaging sign on the gatepost which reads: “Here lives a happy retired person”.

Walking back to my parked car after an expedition to Pointe de Saire I was looking for possible new sources of shell-rich strandline to browse.  There were certainly distinct drifts of seaweed, with the sea’s most recent delivery of shells, to scan for unusual species.  But what I noticed in particular were the right (i.e. convex, lower) and the left (i.e. flat, upper) valves of Pecten maximus scattered across the upper shore, like so many open fans.  Lovely.

A Walk in the Woods

When Dédé and Françoise proposed a walk in the woods, little did I imagine what a unique moment this would be, for me.  Françoise’s email ran as follows “Mercredi,  à 14 heure veut tu venir avec André et moi aux champignons?   Nous serons de retour pour 17 hr.  On vient te chercher si tu peux ? Gros Bisous.   ‘Aux champignons?  In December?!!  I concluded that ‘aux champignons’ would be an expression, a watchword if you like, to denote a gentle ramble in the countryside.

Since Nick and I bought our French house eleven years ago we have never been for a walk in French woods!  IMG_5347 (2).JPG

When I think about that it is rather extraordinary.  We have walked often enough along the shores and coast of the Cotentin, round La Hougue many times, and less frequently inland within our neighbourhood.  But we have not experienced true French countryside at first hand.  One reason is that ‘the right to roam’ does not exist in France.  Much land is in private ownership and much of that is managed for hunting.  ‘Chasse garde’ or ‘Chasse prive’.

We were picked up at 2 o’clock and the first surprise was that we would be going by car.  Dédé drove us to a bit of well-established woodland that he has known since he was a boy.  Indeed as a boy he used to forage for mushrooms. I think it was a clandestine activity; I am not even sure we should be here today, there are wooden signs nailed to trees all around.  img_5333-2 It would not be giving too much away to say that the locality is called Montaigu, a sprawling area of woodland either side of the main road to Valognes.  Montaigu la Brisette covers an area of some 1500 sq. km.  We drove down a few lanes and then a track.  Dédé parked the car.  There was a very fine drizzle, at times more like a swirling mist, which persisted throughout the afternoon.  It was rather pleasant: humidity and fungi are happy companions.  We walked into the woodland with some purpose and before long our hosts were stopping and staring at the ground.  And there they were, small brown circular shapes with fluted edges, the caps of Chanterellesimg_5336-2Chanterelles, also known as Girolles, Cantharellus cibarius, are probably the best known species of the genus Cantharellus.  Wikipedia tells us that the mushroom is orange or yellow, meaty and funnel-shaped. On the lower surface, underneath the smooth cap, it has gill-like ridges that run almost all the way down its stipe, which tapers down seamlessly from the cap. It emits a fruity aroma, reminiscent of apricots and a mildly peppery taste and is considered an excellent edible mushroom.

Our mushrooms, my expert mycologist sister has since told me, were  Cantharellus infundibuliformis.  img_5339-2A common mushroom that grows in large groups in wooded areas and damp places. They are characterized by dark brown caps that measure up to two inches across and brownish-yellow stems. The underside of the cap features narrow veins rather than gills. They are known as Yellow Legs and have a pleasant aroma but are very bitter if eaten raw. They are best when added to dishes that are slow cooked which makes them tender and much more flavoursome. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week and they are very easy to dry.

We browsed our way through the woods, stooping to gather freely where the toadstools were fruiting.  img_5349-2Once you knew what you were looking for their congregations were not difficult to spot.  They appear, in pockets, in much the same places year after year.  We all gathered a magnificent haul of the dainty mushrooms.  Along the way we saw other fungus species.  Dede gave me their names and I later emailed Françoise: “J’ai trouvé les autres champignons dont nous avons parlé aujourd’hui, Peziza orangée, Clavaire choufleur, Pied de mouton.  Il y avait , je pense un autre quatrieme ‘quelquechose de bois’ que j’oublie?  Donc Peziza s’appelle Orange Peel fungus (zeste du orange), Clavaire choufleur s’appelle Coral fungus, Pied de mouton s’appelle ‘Wood Hedgehog fungus’ cela veut dire Herisson du bois!!  Ce nom-là est tres drôle.”img_5356-4

At the end of our walk Dédé stopped to take some small pine tree branches for Christmas decoration then we took a circuitous route back to the car.  img_5350-2As we swished our way through the thick and loosely packed leaf litter, with the starkness of the tall skinny pine trees and the prickly holly scrub all around, I was reminded of Middle Earth, and hobbits, and hidden places where secretive and unseen beings may be watching.  These woods are known to be home to wild boar; we saw plenty of evidence of scrapes in the rich, vegetative soil, especially beneath trees.  Wild boar root for acorns but there were few oak trees around.  I wondered if the animals had been searching for truffles.  Ever since I read Richard Fortey’s homage to woodlands  I have learnt that truffles might be more widespread than is believed.  The locations where you can find truffles are not often shared between fungi officinados.  They are expensive.  I checked one supplier’s prices: a smooth black truffle about the size of a conker would cost you £49.  There is so much mystique around the subject. img_5361-2

Delivered to our front door we thanked Dédé and Françoise as profusely as we could in flowery French, for such a wonderful and very special afternoon with them.  Fungi foragers do not easily share their haunts and expertise with others.  Once indoors I set to and sorted my haul into mushrooms that would be dried, others to cook within a few days and, following Dede’s advice, I removed all the stalks which would be used to make a veloute.

The following day I sautéed some in a pan with butter then folded them through some saffron tagliatelle with crème fraiche.  Another way to eat the fresh little mushrooms is to fry them in a pan until crispy and then make an omelette around them.img_5370-2

Drying mushrooms is a very straightforward process.  Various methods are suggested although I discovered that putting them in a very low temperature oven did not work as the mushrooms started to cook and yield their liquid.  Better was putting them on a wire rack on top of the wood-burning stove.  I have a proper food dryer and dehydrator but not where I need it!

Gathering wild mushrooms then taking them home to create tasty dishes; it doesn’t get much better.


Not Exactly Silver Bells and Cockle Shells

At the end of half term week we take the girls back to Hackney.  Emsie cooks us a delicious roast chicken dinner then we head back to Winterborne Kingston.  A sustained interval of visitors and visiting has drawn to a close.  We face a month in our Dorset home before we repair to St Vaast at the beginning of December to prepare for Christmas.  I have many tasks I would like to tackle, some are long-standing and involve rooting out cupboards, weeding out drawers, organising and arranging the trappings of my life.  Above all I want my garden back.  I began to lose it in April and May.  By the end of June when we returned from France after our three week sojourn in the south of France I had acquired a wildflower meadow.  The borders had run rampage.  Fortunately I had made the decision back in May to vacate many of my pots and leave them with montages so I did not have many dried out and shrivelled plants to dispose of once autumn arrived.  There is a resident in the village who is a keen gardener and grows an assortment of plants which he sells and gives the proceeds to charity.  I walk round to Broad Close to see what he has to offer and buy small Viola, Primula, Wallflowers and small Cyclamen.  I spend £40 and get all the plants I need to populate the pots I have waiting in the wings, some of which, with bulbs, will be overplanted.

Out of the blue I get a message from Barns enquiring whether we will be about over the weekend of the 12th. img_6426 Fortunately we will although I have committed the Saturday morning to a pro-EU group who are running an Outreach stall in Bournemouth.  This will be my first experience of lobbying, in a minor way, out on the streets.  Meanwhile Barney and the children will join Nick for the village walk during the morning.  After my ‘reaching out’ I get home before the others return after their pub lunch.  The rest of the weekend is spent playing games, eating good food and on Sunday we do a walk in the morning which does push me to my limits.  Barns proposes we drive to Worth Matravers, walk to St Alban’s Head, along the coast to the cliffs above Chapman’s Pool and back to the car.  This entails those nightmare steps which need to be negotiated in order to cross the deep valley running down towards the coast.  We count 217 down and about 180 up the other side but there is a stretch of unstepped slope on the up side.  I complete the ‘crossing’ having found it extremely taxing.  (My leg muscles will ache for at least four days afterwards).  After a delicious slow-roasted shoulder of lamb Barns loads the kids into the car with all their clean laundry and drives the back to Oxfordshire ready for school the next day.

A relatively uneventful week ensues, culminating in a pleasant inaugural lunch at The Old Workshop to launch Splinter, a somewhat conspiratorial group of erstwhile village book group members.  Four of us eat my quick version Paella followed by Lemon mousse, choose our first joint title to read for discussion and decide on other titles that we have variously either read, or intend to read and which we will talk about as and when.  The following day I am going to drive to Sandford Orcas to forage for a basket with Kim.

Return of Cybs and Eamonn

Originally pitched for March, delayed until June then shifted back even further because of an unavoidable conflict of dates, Cybs and Eamonn finally arrive in St Vaast for their long weekend of fishing and jam-making.  And very much more.

On Saturday morning Cybs and I go to market to shop for the cheese platter we will be taking to dinner chez Dupont in the evening.  I have already told Cybs that we will only be able to make Victoria plum jam using our own plums, as the cheap apricots are over.  So imagine my surprise when she spots a stall selling cardboard trays of apricots at a very good price.  Back at the house we knuckle down with fruit preparation and set up our cottage industry and produce a very large number of pots.

That evening the four of us sit down to dinner with Martine and Alain, Bri and Georgy, Anne and Francois.  With courses produced by all of us it is a splendid meal and Cybs once again gets a chance to demonstrate her skill with a pool cue playing table petanque.

We manage a walk into the port and round La Hougue and Eamonn captures the spirit with his camera


It is a weekend of special skies and spectacular watery vistas

And on Sunday when our visitors must return to our shared Dorset village ready for business on Monday morning we try out the Sunday brunch on offer at Le Goeland.  It is a meal with a French twist and does us very nicely.



A Corridor of Sunshine

After the storm we wake to a still, sunny day.  The first thing on my mind is an early morning swim.  The water is welcoming and, as always after the first frisson, it is as Anne Poulet always says “délicieuse”.  I swim back and forth along a shaft of sunlight that warms my face and then my back.  After this, coffee and a slide of bread with lovely butter that has crystals of salt in it is a perfect breakfast.  I love the boat coffee.

We are planning a walk ashore.   We take the Zodiac to the small harbour, le Port des Moines, and spill out onto the small sandy beach there. blogIMG_5321 (2) The island of Saint-Honorat, with its woods and pine and eucalyptus, its old forts and rocky coastline speaks of an earlier, wilder Mediterranean terrain that almost disappeared in many others parts of this region.  The clock tower of the abbey projects above the tallest pines in the mblogIMG_4354 (2)iddle of the island.  We pass and linger in the small lavender grove, bordered by Mickey Mouse cacti which are in flower at the entrance to the monastery.  From the harbour we cross over the spine of the island, arriving on the south coast close to the square fort or “donjon” which dominates this end of the island. blogIMG_5311 (2).jpg This ancient fortified monastery was build in 1073 to protect the monastic community against incursions of Sarrasin pirates. blogIMG_4351 (2) It was a place of pilgrimage including one pope who walked a circuit of the island.  Inside, a cloister surrounds the square courtyard at ground level.  As you climb every higher up the stone spiral staircase the views are “fabuleuses”.  I am the only one to make it to the top.blogIMG_4364 (2)

Rejoining the others at ground level we walk eastwards and complete the half circuit that takes us back to the Zodiac.  We pass one of the seven chapels on this island and several patches of a pretty pale lemon-coloured flower which is very evidently a member of the dandelion family.  Nick encourages me to collect a ‘clock’ or two to sow back home.

blogIMG_4373 (2) Back on ‘Till’, Francois cooks lunch – lightly fried slivers of salmon which we eat with baked tomatoes.  Before lunch I take a dip 🙂

Some of my afternoon is spent on my bunk with my current read ‘March Violets’.  This is a gritty thriller in Philip Kerr’s ‘Berlin Noir’ trilogy.  Late afternoon finds us hauling the anchor ready for the run back to Frejus.  We head eastwards along the channel between the two islands and round the eastern tip of Sainte-Marguerite.  Three kilometres long, it is twice the length of its brother island, but wooded alike and boasts its own forts including that in which ‘le Masque de Fer’ was interned.  We pass this, also the former naval boatyard on the north coast and start the open sea passage back to our home port.

This is another chance to admire that red lithology which dominates the coastline around the Esterel Massif.  These fiery red rocks formed under extrusive volcanic activity in the Permian about 250 million years ago, the younger greenish grey rocks that we notice as lenses protruding through the red are a lithology called Esterellite, named by a French geologist, Auguste Michel Levy.  IMG_4337 (2)These green rocks are younger by some 30 million years and were intruded within the red host rocks in a “muffled volcanic activity” setting.  In Roman times the Esterellite was mined for paving roads and building materials.  There is an arresting example of such a lens which appears starkly green against the red rocks at the sealine near Agay.

Fefe and I chatter on as the men bring the boat back to Frejus.  Every now and then we stop and reach for a scrap of paper and a pen to note some word or phrase which Fefe will want to commit to her ‘cahier’ in which she notes all manner of Englishisms.  Her fat new notebook is my gift, together with an inscribed pen, to encourage her to keep all her vocabulary in one source.

Back in the marina we settle a few tasks then Francois makes asparagus tip and air-dried ham omelettes which have the gooiest middles I have ever eaten.  With a green salad.  And somehow, by the time we have eaten and splashed back a drop or two of wine, sleepiness envelops and it is time to post ourselves back into our letterbox.



The Grandeur of Granite: Rocks which Rock and don’t Roll

Our short week in Scilly is drawing to a close.  I’ve not rated St Mary’s very highly during past visits.  It is the largest and most populated of the islands with an urban centre attached to the harbour at Hugh Town.  It lacks the wild rugged ambiance of the other islands.  At the time of our visit the island is getting ready for an invasion of folk who will be coming

map_stmarysfor the annual gig-racing festival.  Something like 150 gigs have been transported to St Mary’s in the preceding weeks and stored in fields prior to being brought down to Town Beach by Hugh Town from where the boats will be rowed to their starting buoys for the race back.  Around 4000 people mill around Hugh Town and its pubs during the weekend.  We are due to leave on the Friday when the event kicks off with the veteran’s race in the evening.  But on the day we are on St Mary’s there are gigs and crews very much in evidence and we get a flavour of what is to come.DSC00308 (2)

Our mission of the day is to walk round the Peninnis headland.  We make a circuit of The Garrison and across the top of Porthcressa Beach to approach the headland.  BlogIMG_4072 (2)Around the cliff top there are some very fine examples of granite tors and rocking stones.  We complete our circuit with a wander round the cemetery attached to St Mary’s Church in Old Town, final resting place of the late Harold Wilson.  We cross over the island to regain Hugh Town where our senses of smell draw us to a pasty shop and afterwards we have a hour or so before we are due to take our boat back to Tresco.  I find my way into a show selling sailing clothing and treat myself to a couple of things that I will enjoy taking to Fefe and Francois’ boat for our Mediterranean experience with them in June.

And so to Bryher

I think Bryher is my favourite Scilly island.  For one thing it’s a nice shape to negotiate.  You get dropped at one of two quays on the eastern coast. map_bryher It is a short hop from Tresco and during exceptionally low Spring tides you can cross on foot.  The island is 2 km long and 1km wide at it’s broadest point.  Easily circumperambulated in a day with plenty of time to stop, linger, look.

The so-called settlement at Great Pool / Hell Bay Hotel is the westernmost in England. The centre of Bryher is mainly low-lying with arable fields, pasture and housing with a shop, a café and Island Fish.  The latter is a small shack-type establishment where you can get freshly-made crab sandwiches or a lobster salad with change from your fiver or tenner!  On the west side is the Great Pool overlooked by the Hell Bay Hotel and in the south are sandy beaches, a common feature on the island, Rushy Bay being an example. BlogIMG_4018 (2)

Setting foot on terra firma Nick and I strike uphill, westwards.  WNickLobsterSalade pass Island Fish thinking to buy a crab sandwich but in the event the proprietor is out of crab but can offer us a lobster salad.  Although strictly a take-away establishment we are able to sit at the small table outside to eat, and enjoy our lovely little salad with the pot of tea she makes for us as a friendly gesture.  With that wonderful feeling of having eaten some food of the gods we set off and crest the ridge of the island then we vere north slightly to follow a track which skirts fields and which then loops round to take us Great Popplestone where we enjoy some mazes more modern than that of St Agnes.  There are also a few discreet cairns at the top of the beach there, each composed of a single boulder upon which a slightly smaller one is placed and so on………..  There is also a composite one.

On the beach here Nick lingers to take photographs of beach birds and I notice interesting patterns of stranded shells and also the fine and glistening quality of the sand.DSC00243 DSC00241 (2)

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We call in at Hell Bay Hotel and spend a happy hour in their lounge over a good cappuccino and the daily papers.  DSC00229 (2)Continuing around the coast we pass the western flank of Sampson Hill and suddenly happen upon a host of golden daffodils and a beautiful vista thrown in.

The meander round the rest of the island takes us along the southeast coast then by some leafy tracks and under leafy bowers to reach the quay where I gaze out over crystal clear water towards Cromwell’s Castle and from which we will be picked up and whisked back to Tresco.10BlogIMG_4065 (2)


I Stagger on St Agnes

Full English, Smoked Haddock, a Kipper…… it is not an easy choice at breakfast time.  I choose the Full English and am not disappointed but already know what the following morning’s choice will be when I see Nick’s kipper which is proper.

We board our boat for St Agnes and as we walk up from the quay we glance at a sign outside the Turk’s Head inn which invites us to order our lunchtime pasty to avoid disappointment.  map_stagnes

It is low tide and the boatman tells us that the bar which connects St Agnes with Gugh will be exposed throughout the duration of our time on the island so we cross the sandy ridge and follow the coast round Gugh. 1BlogIMG_3969 (2)  The coastal granite structures are striking indeed and later in the week John will tell me that the tors on the Penninis Headland on St Mary’s are held to be some of the best examples of weathered granite outcrops in southwest England.

Having completed part of the circuit we recross the bar and find ourselves at the Turk’s Head just before 1 o’clock when we have an appointment with a pasty.IMG_3977 (2)

After our pasty and a pint we start our circuit of St Agnes, walking south a bit then turning west towards Higher Town.  Before we reach the centre we take a track south which leads down to Wingletang Down and the coast at Horse Point.  It is then a matter of following the coast right the way round to rejoin the Quay at Black Point

During our walk Nick photographs birds and takes a panorama view at St Warne’s Cove.  DSC00180 (2)

At every turn there are different vistas to enjoy and at Troy Town we find the famous maze.  Many turf mazes in England were named Troy Town, or variations on that theme.  It is presumed that this is because, in popular legend, the walls of the city of Troy were constructed in such a confusing and complex way that any enemy who entered them would be unable to find his way out. IMG_0234 [1233958] IMG_3993 (2)Continuing around the island we loop Periglis Cove with its short causeway to Burnt Island.  There is a small water body with resident geese, with goslings, and walking round the track which skirts the pond I stumble and fall but thankfully no damage is done.  It is then just a matter of walking around the sea wall at Porth Killier, site of former settlement by Bronze Age people who left, inter alia, large middens of limpet shells.  I worked on these shells in 1998 which were excavated as part of a watching brief prior to the construction of the sea wall, and this is what I wrote as an introduction to my Report to Cornish Archaeological Unit based at Truro. 

As part of ‘a well integrated land/sea subsistence economy’ (Bell 1984), Scillonians from the Bronze Age onwards were gathering food from the sea shore. Limpet shells, often in large quantities, are found on most settlement sites in Scilly from the prehistoric to the Post-Medieval period (Ratcliffe & Straker, 1996). Previously there have been 2 studies (from Scillonian middens) of limpet shells – which usually make up the bulk of any domestic midden – Halangy Down (Townsend 1967) and Samson (Mason 1984). Evidence from a site at Porth Killier suggests that heavy exploitation of marine resources took place in the Bronze Age (Ratcliffe & Straker 1996). During 1996 excavations at Porth Killier took place prior to construction of a sea wall. Within the prehistoric remains present a substantial shell midden was identified, from which samples were taken and have been analysed for the purposes of this report. Prior to these excavations carried out by Cornish Archaeological Unit, eight bulk samples were taken from six of the layers exposed at Porth Killier by Vanessa Straker in September 1989. The shells from these samples also form part of the marine mollusc analysis described in this report.

Back at the Inn and suitably refreshed we repair to the bar where we compare notes on our respective days with John and Jenny before supper. IMG_4009The following day Nick and I will plan to spend time on Bryher, possibly my favourite island of the group based on my visits to Scilly so far.  Mike and Carolyn plan to visit Bryher in the morning and the Abbey Gardens in the afternoon.



Twenty Minutes in a Twin Otter

It takes less than twenty minutes to hop across from Land’s End to St Mary’s Island in Scilly.  This trip was planned back in the autumn when Carolyn confessed to never having visited the Isle of Scilly and that this was a destination on her bucket list.  And so it was that the Derricks and we agreed a five-day slot into which we squeeze as much island discovery as possible.

Our friends picked us up from Winterborne K on Sunday morning and we drove to a small restaurant in Okehampton to break our journey and have some lunch.  Onwards to Penzance and the hotel that Nick and I have stayed at before.  We enjoyed a pleasant stay, with a good dinner, comfortable room and hearty breakfast.  Carolyn drove us to Land’s End airport where I spotted a former geological colleague from Royal Holloway College, John Mather and Jenny.  They will be staying at the New Inn too.  We boarded our flight.  I have not flown in such a small aircraft before, one in which the cockpit is open and enables the passengers to watch the pilots at work.  I felt safer in this little ‘plane, flying at a height at which you do not feel you have lost touch with land.  I had great views of the Cornish mainland as we left the coast, and of the Longships group of islands with its lighthouse, just over 1 mile offshore.  These rocky islets, together with the Seven Stones Reef and our destination, the Isles of Scilly which are approximately 28 miles southwest — are part of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse, referred to in Arthurian literature.

Landing on St Mary’s was a hairy moment, IMG_3891 (2) not for any reasons of risk or safety, but because the little ‘plane is able to take off and land over a relatively short distance and as we approached the runway a substantial rock outcrop rose to greet us through the little window and as we sped past it, the wheels bumped gently onto the tarmac and we had arrived.

We were taxied to the port where we boarded a boat which delivered us to Tresco.  A wagon ride to the New Inn…….. and we had arrived.  The Inn is largely unchanged since we were last on Tresco, the atmosphere is at once lively (one has the bar and restaurant staff to thank for that) and calm and restful too.

During the afternoon we walked north from the Inn along the coastal path which takes us past Cromwell’s and King Charles’ Castles, J8 tresco.map2 then you clamber up track and over to the east side by Piper’s Hole.  You can follow the path round Gimble Porth and over the Point to reach the Island Hotel complex.  IMG_3923 (2)We meet up with John and Jenny Mather along the way.  Pressing on towards Old Grimsby you pass houses with gardens containing flowers just a bit too tender to find on the mainland and the Echiums are in full and glorious flower. IMG_3948 (3)IMG_3936 (2) Turning inland our way takes us past the school and the church, to eventually drop us onto the lane which leads down to the Inn.

Before supper we settle at a table in the bar and play a game of Barbu.  We are so absorbed by our game, and have not mastered the house drill for ordering food at the bar, such that we risk missing the boat for our evening meal.

When we go to bed we have chosen our destination for the morrow and will be picking a boat up at New Grimsby to take us to St Agnes and Gugh.



Flight from Orkney for Date with Fuchsias

After a stimulating week of shells in archaeology and shells on the seashore I was nevertheless ready to board my flight home.  Before we left Kirkwall for Sonia and Terry to drop me off at the airport I popped into the Tankerness House Gardens which houses the Orkney Museum, next door to our pad, to take some photos of the folly in the grounds.  The small folly with a strange pointy roof is decorated with shells and known as Groatie House, which has an interesting history. I transferred from my Kirkwall flight to one at Aberdeen that would drop me at Heathrow.  Nick met the flight and we drove home.

With just a day to prepare for a crossing to France I unpacked, put my conference papers and some of the shells that I collected to one side and started to think about putting a bag together for St Vaast.  This would contain a minimum of clothes since we are to travel on Monday with Maddy and Andrew and return to Dorset on Friday in order to take in the Conch. Soc. AGM.

Maddy and Andrew arrived at TOW on Sunday evening and first thing on Monday we boarded the good ship Barfleur bound for Cherbourg and our second home.  BarfleurJourneyDuring that week Nick and Andrew put in two good days of logging.  Nick and Francois have bought a second beech tree that had to be felled because it is now dangerously close to the main road between Quettehou and Valognes.  At the end of the week Nick and Andrew spent the morning at Le Vast helping Alain remove the cladding of ivy from a henhouse.  Meanwhile Maddy and I did a long walk from St Vaast to Pointe de Saire, via the village of Jonville and returning along the high water mark from the Pont de Saire and then retracing our steps along the beach wall all the way back to the town beach.  It is a good 12 km.

The visit highlight must be dinner at Fuchsias.  Andrew had kindly offered to treat us all, it being his birthday.  The new menus, at least new to Nick and I, are excellent and truly good value.  AndrewFuchsiasFuchsias meals are characterised, for me, by small quantities of a diverse array of ingredients which go to make up a beautiful plate of food.  Andrew pronounced the meal the best he had ever had!

We returned to WK on Friday night and as it turned out the day we drove to the Natural History Museum for the AGM was fraught, very stressful and resulted in Nick experiencing an alarming episode in the middle of the meeting.  Fearing a TIA I watched Nick’s contorting face whilst supporting him in his chair.  It can only have lasted a minute but it was a frightening one but I managed to extract a good even smile from Nick when he came to, which indicated that a stroke type seizure was unlikely.  Subsequently after hearing my description of what took place and what Nick remembered of the episode, both his French and English doctor diagnosed a vasovagal event, posh term for a fainting fit.

By Sunday afternoon we were back in St Vaast to await the arrival of Wig and Ian.